Pacific Ocean AquaFarms Environmental Impact Statement, 55667-55670 [2020-19921]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 175 / Wednesday, September 9, 2020 / Notices via GoToMeeting, the meeting will continue via Google Meet. By Google Meet on Sept. 25, 2020, 9 a.m., follow this link: https://calendar.google.com/calendar/r/ eventedit/copy/ NDdzYXU5OWdrMDZsZzJnNmJlMW1 pczVlbzQgbWlndWVsYXIyOUBt/ bWlndWVsYXIyOUBnbWFpbC5jb20 ?pli=1&sf=true FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Miguel Rolo´n, Executive Director, Caribbean Fishery Management Council, 270 Mun˜oz Rivera Avenue, Suite 401, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00918–1903, telephone: (787) 398–3717. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The following items included in the tentative agenda will be discussed: Tentative Agenda 9 a.m.–12 p.m.—Five-Year Strategic Plan—Dr. Michelle Duval 12 p.m.–1 p.m.—Lunch Break 1 p.m.–2:30 p.m.—Executive Order on Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth (May 7, 2020) 2:30 p.m.–2:45 p.m.—Other Business 2:45 p.m.–3 p.m.—5-minutes Public Comments/Presentations The CFMC is interested in hearing feedback on priorities for its Five-Year Strategic Plan (Sept. 25, 2020, 9 a.m.). The list of topics the Council is considering in developing the Strategic Plan, and on which the Council would like feedback include: (1) Resource Health: Invasive species, climate change, erosion & sedimentation, coastal development, natural disasters, habitat loss & destruction, enforcement, pollution, bycatch & discard mortality, abundance of baitfish and forage species, lack of biological or ecosystem information, overfishing, and illegal fishing; (2) Social, Cultural, Economic Concerns: closed seasons and stock assessment, valuation and assessment of area closures, increasing costs, competition with foreign fishermen, recreational & commercial user conflicts, displacement of fishing communities, and ability to support a family, illegal/unlicensed commercial fishers, lack of new entrants into fishery, lack of social & economic data, excess gear, market instability, infrastructure needs (landing sites), inadequate enforcement, excess fishing capacity; (3) Management & Operational Issues: accurate/timely commercial and recreational catch data, enforcement of existing regulations, fisher involvement in data collection, regulatory consistency (federal & territorial), clear management objectives, bycatch/ regulatory discards, gear limits, cost- VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:06 Sep 08, 2020 Jkt 250001 effective data collection technology, balancing commercial & recreational concerns, incorporation of climate change into management, Federal permit program, and territorial licensing requirements; and (4) Communication and Outreach: frequency of communication (alerts/reminders of scoping meetings and council meetings), variety of tools used in communication (e.g. email, website, social media, paper, text message alerts), educational resources (e.g. science & stock assessment, business planning, restaurant choices, etc.), improving general public awareness of fisheries issues, regular in-person outreach workshops on important topics, and clarity and simplicity of presentations. The order of business may be adjusted as necessary to accommodate the completion of agenda items. Other than the start time, interested parties should be aware that discussions may start earlier or later than indicated, at the discretion of the Chair. Special Accommodations Simultaneous interpretation will be provided. To receive interpretation in Spanish you can dial into the meeting as follows: US/Canada: call +1–888–947–3988, when system answers, enter 1*999996#. Para interpretacio´n en ingle´s marcar: US/Canada: call +1–888–947–3988, cuando el sistema conteste, entrar el siguiente nu´mero 2*999996#. For any additional information on this public virtual meeting, please contact Diana Martino, Caribbean Fishery Management Council, 270 Mun˜oz Rivera Avenue, Suite 401, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 00918–1903, telephone: (787) 226–8849. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: September 3, 2020. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–19909 Filed 9–8–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XA402] Pacific Ocean AquaFarms Environmental Impact Statement National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. AGENCY: PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 55667 Notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement; request for comments. ACTION: NOAA is publishing this Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed development of a commercial-scale finfish aquaculture facility to be located in Federal waters off the coast of southern California. The proposed facility would require two Federal permits: A Section 402 Clean Water Act (CWA) permit, and a Section 10 Rivers and Harbor Act (RHA) permit, over which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), respectively, have authority. The EPA and USACE will act as cooperating agencies for purposes of this EIS. This NOI initiates the public scoping process for the EIS during which time interested parties are invited to provide comments on the proposed project, its potential to effect the human environment, means for avoiding, minimizing, or mitigating those effects, the preliminary reasonable range of alternatives, and any additional reasonable alternatives that should be considered. SUMMARY: Written comments on the scope of the analysis to be considered in the draft EIS must be submitted no later than October 26, 2020. Two public meetings (in webinar format) are scheduled for October 14, 2020 at 3 p.m.–5 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time and October 16, 2020 at 1 p.m.– 3 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2020–0117, by using the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov and enter NOAA– NMFS–2020–0117. Click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NOAA. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NOAA will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). The webinar link for October 14 and 16, 2020, is https://bit.ly/34sj1UT. You DATES: E:\FR\FM\09SEN1.SGM 09SEN1 55668 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 175 / Wednesday, September 9, 2020 / Notices may also participate by phone toll-free at 844–621–3956 with access code: 146 738 1449. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Leathery, National NEPA Coordinator, NMFS; phone: 301–427– 8013; email: poa.eis@noaa.gov; or website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ national/aquaculture/pacific-oceanaquafarms-environmental-impactstatement. As required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the EIS will analyze the environmental consequences of implementing each of the alternatives, if carried forward for full review following public scoping, by assessing the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of each alternative on the human environment. This EIS will be prepared in accordance with the requirements of NEPA and implementing regulations published by the Council on Environmental Quality in 1978, and amended in 1986 and 2005 (40 CFR parts 1500–1508). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Pacific Ocean AquaFarms (POA), the applicant, proposes to construct, operate, and maintain an offshore marine finfish aquaculture operation comprised of floating surface pens in Federal waters located approximately 4 nautical miles (7.4 kilometers) off the coast of San Diego, California. To identify a site for the proposed action, POA sought spatial analysis expertise from the NOAA National Ocean Service (NOS) to identify potential offshore locations that would be technically and commercially feasible while minimizing environmental effects. The technical and commercial parameters for the proposed project were established by the applicant to identify potential sites. Those parameters included, but were not limited to the following: • Within 35 nautical miles (65 kilometers) of suitable port(s); • Minimum and Maximum Depth to Seafloor: ≥ 100 feet (30 meters) and < 495 feet (150 meters); • Suitability for Species: California yellowtail (Seriola dorsalis)—(other native or naturalized species may also be cultivated that have the same requirements for temperature, space, and other fixed parameters); and • Gear Type: Submersible net pen. The NOS siting analysis included review of other engineering, development, and environmental constraints, including but not limited to presence of submarine cables, oil and gas infrastructure or leases, squid and trawl fisheries, wastewater treatment discharge structures, shipping lanes and VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:06 Sep 08, 2020 Jkt 250001 high vessel traffic areas, marine protected areas, deep sea corals and hard bottom habitat, and marine mammal migration routes. The siting analysis included a review by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to ensure that potential sites avoided areas of DoD operations in Federal waters, which are extensive offshore of southern California. POA and NOS identified a site that best meets the technical, commercial, and environmental parameters within an area located approximately 4 nautical miles (7.4 kilometers) offshore of San Diego, California. Following initial site identification, POA coordinated with local U.S. Navy commands and organizational units and received informal approval from the DoD. NOAA has directives to preserve ocean sustainability and facilitate domestic aquaculture in the U.S. consistent with the National Aquaculture Act of 1980, the NOAA Marine Aquaculture Policy (2011), and Presidential Executive Order 13921— ‘‘Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth’’ (May 7, 2020) through, among other things, providing technical expertise and supporting environmental review and permitting of commercial scale aquaculture proposals. NOAA may also be called upon to engage in consultations, permitting, and authorization for such projects under the Endangered Species Act, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Purpose and Need The proposed Federal action includes decisions on two permits under the respective authorities of the EPA and the USACE as required to site, install, and operate the proposed aquaculture facility. The EPA’s proposed Federal action is the issuance, if appropriate, of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which would authorize effluent discharge from an aquatic animal production facility because such discharges are considered a point source discharge into waters of the U.S. The USACE’s proposed Federal action is the issuance, if appropriate, of a permit pursuant to Section 10 of the RHA that authorizes structures and work in navigable waters of the U.S. Agency Purpose and Need The EPA has authority to issue NPDES permits pursuant to Section 402 of the CWA and regulations at 40 CFR part 125, subpart M. Under Section 402, all point sources that discharge directly PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 into U.S. waters are required to obtain an NPDES permit from the EPA. Each NPDES permit specifies effluent limitations for particular pollutants, as well as monitoring and reporting requirements for the proposed discharge. POA intends to apply for a NPDES permit from the EPA. Because the POA facility is proposed in Federal waters, it requires a NPDES permit to operate and the EPA will evaluate POA’s permit application pursuant to the CWA and implementing regulations. The NPDES permit, if issued, would authorize POA to discharge pollutants into waters of the U.S. The EPA has a statutory responsibility to respond to applicant requests for NPDES permits. EPA is required to review applications and, if appropriate, issue NPDES permits under the CWA. The USACE has authority to issue permits pursuant to Section 10 of the RHA and regulations at 33 CFR parts 320–332. Prior authorization (a permit) is required for installation of structures and work in, over, or under navigable waters of the U.S. This will require evaluation of impacts to navigation and public interests. The USACE’s proposed Federal action is a direct outcome of POA’s permit application to establish and operate a commercial-scale finfish facility in marine waters off the southern California coast; thus, the purpose of USACE’s action is to evaluate POA’s application pursuant to the RHA. The USACE has a statutory responsibility to respond to applicant requests for Section 10 permits. USACE is required to review applications and, if appropriate, issue permits under Section 10 of the RHA. Applicant Purpose and Need The applicant’s stated purpose of the proposed project is to construct and operate a new commercial-scale, offshore finfish aquaculture facility in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the southern California coast. The United Nations estimates that the world population will reach approximately 9.7 billion people by the year 2050, and approximately 11.0 billion people by the year 2100. With this approximate 26 to 43 percent growth in population, the demand for food (and protein) will also grow proportionally. Terrestrial meat production cannot support this demand without significant land use and environmental consequences. The U.S. has the world’s largest EEZ including a wide range of habitats and farmable species with the resultant potential to support large stocks of wild fish species and extensive offshore aquaculture operations to provide E:\FR\FM\09SEN1.SGM 09SEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 175 / Wednesday, September 9, 2020 / Notices additional protein sources for the U.S. and exports. However, many wild fisheries within the EEZ are at, or near, maximum sustainable yield and the U.S. is one of the world’s largest importers of fish and fishery products. By weight, greater than 85 percent of the seafood Americans eat comes from abroad, over half of it from aquaculture. The U.S. is ranked 17th in the world for aquaculture production as of 2018, contributing to an annual $16.8 billion seafood industry trade deficit. By operating in U.S. waters, POA would be under U.S. regulatory oversight. Data generated and collected from the aquaculture facility could provide multiple benefits to government agencies, universities, fisheries managers, and the scientific community. Such a commercial-scale, offshore aquaculture facility would provide an opportunity for study, new technology development, and transferable knowledge and would be the first of its kind in California waters. Preliminary Reasonable Range of Alternatives for Consideration NOAA has identified a proposed action and preliminary alternatives for potential consideration in the draft EIS. Both a no-action and several preliminary action alternatives are presented for consideration for public review and comment. NOAA is also soliciting additional alternatives for consideration. No-Action Alternative Under the no-action alternative, the EPA and USACE would not issue permits and the applicant would not be authorized to construct or operate a finfish aquaculture facility offshore of southern California; and the project’s direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts would not occur. Under the no-action alternative, the proposed project would not take place, however the resulting environmental effects of no action would be compared with the effects of allowing the proposed project or an alternate project to go forward. Reasonable Range of Action Alternatives Action alternatives describe potential alternative approaches to achieve the defined purpose and need of the proposed action. NOAA is considering the following action alternatives at this time: The San Diego Site Alternative (applicant’s proposed action), Long Beach Site Alternative, and Half-Scale Alternative at either location. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:06 Sep 08, 2020 Jkt 250001 San Diego Site Alternative POA proposes to construct and operate a new commercial-scale, offshore source of finfish in the U.S. EEZ approximately 4 nautical miles (7.4 kilometers) off the coast of San Diego. An area of approximately 1,000 acres (4 square kilometers) (exact area to be determined based on engineering design) is sited as suitable for potential use; of this, approximately 717 acres (2.9 square kilometers) would be occupied by the project, including a total of 28 submersible pens, anchors and mooring lines, and surface marker buoys. The total area may change relative to the exact location of the pen grids, the relative depth of the pens, and the final engineering requirements that would delineate the location, number, and depth of mooring lines. Initial production is projected to yield 2.2 million pounds (1,000 metric tons) annually growing up to 11 million pounds (5,000 metric tons) after environmental monitoring confirms that each successive scale of expansion has not resulted in any substantial environmental or space-use impacts. California yellowtail (Seriola dorsalis) would be the initial cultivated species, as it is native to California waters. Other local species such as white seabass (Atractoscion nobilis), may be grown in addition to or in lieu of California yellowtail when the project has become operational under Federal and state permit requirements. The project would utilize established and tested pen and mooring technologies that are able to withstand storm and rough sea conditions. The POA pen culture system would be constructed of high density polyethylene pipe with a suspended copperalloy mesh to control for fouling organisms and inhibit parasitic infestations. The pens would have an approximately 98.4-foot (30-meter) diameter and 46-foot (14-meter) depth. The mooring system would be designed with 2 pen grids, each containing 2 rows of 7 pens (28 pens total) with grid cell dimensions of 328 feet by 328 feet (100 meters by 100 meters). The mooring system would be made of nylon ropes, galvanized steel shackles, and buoys (surface and subsurface) located at nodes in the grid. Steel chains and anchors or concrete blocks would secure the system to the ocean floor. Once all applicable permits are obtained, construction of the aquaculture facilities will take approximately 1 year. Stocking of the cages would then occur sometime within the following year with the first commercial harvest occurring 18 to 24 PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 55669 months later. POA would scale up production after initial yields are reached and subject to environmental monitoring. The anticipated maximum production up to 11 million pounds (5,000 metric tons) per year would occur approximately 3 to 6 years after the project is constructed. Once operational, the aquaculture facility would follow Best Aquaculture Practices set forth by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (in collaboration with the World Wildlife Foundation) and the Global Aquaculture Alliance. The applicant has proposed to only work with feed suppliers and processing facilities that are Best Aquaculture Practices certified. Dedicated vessels would haul feed, personnel, and harvested fish to and from the aquaculture facility daily from the Port of San Diego. The vessels would include an offshore feeding system, harvest vessel, multiuse vessel, and a personnel transport vessel. A dedicated harvest vessel would visit the aquaculture facility site at least three times per week at full production to remove fish from the net pens. Actual frequency of use would depend on time of year and harvesting schedule as determined by fish growth and aquaculture facility need. Landside facilities would include existing facilities and infrastructure at the Port of San Diego. Pier or wharf access would be needed for construction staging and preparation and loading and unloading of feed and harvested fish; occasional access would also be needed to transport juvenile fish to the aquaculture facility, and to accommodate vessel docking or mooring capacity for multiple vessels of various lengths. Long Beach Site Alternative This action alternative would construct and operate the POA aquaculture grid arrays offshore at approximately 4 nautical miles (7.4 kilometers) southwest of Sunset Beach in Long Beach. The Long Beach site has not been analyzed by the DoD to receive informal clearance. However, the analysis conducted by NOS included review of DoD spatial data regarding operating areas, ocean disposal areas, unexploded ordnances, danger zones, and restricted areas and adequate surface and seafloor space was identified that avoided these areas. Onshore facilities needed for this alternative would be similar to those identified for the proposed action, but would be expected to be located within existing developed areas at the Port of Long Beach or the Port of Los Angeles. Aside from the different site location, E:\FR\FM\09SEN1.SGM 09SEN1 55670 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 175 / Wednesday, September 9, 2020 / Notices this alternative would be of similar size at full build-out, would use the same net pen design, anchoring design, phased development, and operational plans as the San Diego Site Alternative. Half-Scale Alternative This action alternative would consider an initial projected production of 2.2 million pounds (1,000 metric tons) and a final production of 5.5 million pounds (2,500 metric tons) from 3 to 6 years after the project is constructed and operated. This production level and project spatial extent would be approximately half that described in the San Diego Site Alternative. The anchoring and mooring system for a single submerged grid would use the same engineering design as the full-scale San Diego Site Alternative. Only 1 pen grid containing 2 rows of 7 pens (14 pens total) would be installed. The half-scale alternative would be analyzed for both the San Diego and Long Beach Alternative sites. Action Alternatives Summary Currently, two location alternatives and a half-scale alternative are being considered for detailed analysis in the EIS. The two location alternatives in southern California—San Diego and Long Beach—are considered for the offshore finfish aquaculture site and the landside facilities that would be used to receive, process, and distribute the harvested fish. Dated: September 2, 2020. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–19921 Filed 9–8–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XA445] New England Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; public meeting. AGENCY: The New England Fishery Management Council (Council) is scheduling a public meeting of its Scallop Committee via webinar to consider actions affecting New England fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Recommendations from this SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:06 Sep 08, 2020 Jkt 250001 group will be brought to the full Council for formal consideration and action, if appropriate. DATES: This meeting will be held on Friday, September 25, 2020 at 8:30 a.m. via webinar. ADDRESSES: All meeting participants and interested parties can register to join the webinar at https:// attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/ 3170442187257265423. Council address: New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council; telephone: (978) 465–0492. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Agenda The Scallop Committee will discuss Amendment 21, specifically, review of public comments and select final preferred alternatives. Amendment 21 includes measures related to: (1) Management of the Northern Gulf of Maine (NGOM) Management Area, (2) Limited Access General Category (LAGC) individual fishing quota (IFQ) possession limits, and (3) ability of Limited Access vessels with LAGC IFQ to transfer quota to LAGC IFQ only vessels. The committee will also discuss 2021/22 Specifications: Discuss the timing and outlook for 2020 surveys and 2021/22 specifications process. They also plan to review 2021 Priorities: Discuss and rank potential 2021 scallop work priorities. Other business may be discussed, as necessary. Although non-emergency issues not contained in this agenda may come before this group for discussion, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during these meetings. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically listed in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the MagnusonStevens Act, provided the public has been notified of the Council’s intent to take final action to address the emergency. Special Accommodations This meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, at (978) 465–0492, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. Consistent with 16 U.S.C. 1852, a copy of the recording is available upon request. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Dated: September 3, 2020. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–19911 Filed 9–8–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Department of the Air Force Air Force Scientific Advisory Board; Notice of Federal Advisory Committee Meeting Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, Department of the Air Force, Department of Defense. ACTION: Notice of federal advisory committee meeting. AGENCY: The Department of Defense (DoD) is publishing this notice to announce that the following Federal Advisory Committee meeting of the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board will take place. DATES: Open to the public virtually. September 15, 2020 from 3:00 p.m. to 4:10 p.m. EDT. ADDRESSES: The virtual meeting can be accessed at the following link: https:// us02web.zoom.us/j/85940304005 ?pwd=SHR2cDg1SlZQWWt lVjNGKzVUUGdNUT09. Meeting ID: 859 4030 4005 Passcode: 421833 Find your local number: https:// us02web.zoom.us/u/kegecLgh9I. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lt Col Elizabeth Sorrells, (321) 480–1009 (Voice), elizabeth.d.sorrells.mil@ mail.mil (Email). Mailing address is 1500 West Perimeter Road, Ste. #3300, Joint Base Andrews, MD 20762. Website: https:// www.scientificadvisoryboard.af.mil/. The most up-to-date changes to the meeting agenda can be found on the website. SUMMARY: This meeting is being held under the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) of 1972 (5 U.S.C., Appendix, as amended), the Government in the Sunshine Act of 1976 (5 U.S.C. 552b, as amended), and 41 CFR 102–3.140 and 102–3.150. Due to circumstances beyond the control of the Department of Defense and the Designated Federal Officer for the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board was unable to provide public notification required by 41 CFR 102– 3.150(a) concerning its September 15, 2020 meeting. Accordingly, the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: E:\FR\FM\09SEN1.SGM 09SEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 175 (Wednesday, September 9, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 55667-55670]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-19921]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[RTID 0648-XA402]


Pacific Ocean AquaFarms Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement; 
request for comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NOAA is publishing this Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed development of a 
commercial-scale finfish aquaculture facility to be located in Federal 
waters off the coast of southern California. The proposed facility 
would require two Federal permits: A Section 402 Clean Water Act (CWA) 
permit, and a Section 10 Rivers and Harbor Act (RHA) permit, over which 
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of 
Engineers (USACE), respectively, have authority. The EPA and USACE will 
act as cooperating agencies for purposes of this EIS. This NOI 
initiates the public scoping process for the EIS during which time 
interested parties are invited to provide comments on the proposed 
project, its potential to effect the human environment, means for 
avoiding, minimizing, or mitigating those effects, the preliminary 
reasonable range of alternatives, and any additional reasonable 
alternatives that should be considered.

DATES: Written comments on the scope of the analysis to be considered 
in the draft EIS must be submitted no later than October 26, 2020.
    Two public meetings (in webinar format) are scheduled for October 
14, 2020 at 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time and October 16, 2020 at 
1 p.m.-3 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2020-0117, by using the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov and enter NOAA-NMFS-2020-0117. Click the ``Comment 
Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your 
comments.
    Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or 
individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be 
considered by NOAA. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NOAA will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    The webinar link for October 14 and 16, 2020, is https://bit.ly/34sj1UT. You

[[Page 55668]]

may also participate by phone toll-free at 844-621-3956 with access 
code: 146 738 1449.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Leathery, National NEPA 
Coordinator, NMFS; phone: 301-427-8013; email: [email protected]; or 
website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/aquaculture/pacific-ocean-aquafarms-environmental-impact-statement.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: As required by the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA), the EIS will analyze the environmental consequences 
of implementing each of the alternatives, if carried forward for full 
review following public scoping, by assessing the direct, indirect, and 
cumulative effects of each alternative on the human environment. This 
EIS will be prepared in accordance with the requirements of NEPA and 
implementing regulations published by the Council on Environmental 
Quality in 1978, and amended in 1986 and 2005 (40 CFR parts 1500-1508).

Background

    Pacific Ocean AquaFarms (POA), the applicant, proposes to 
construct, operate, and maintain an offshore marine finfish aquaculture 
operation comprised of floating surface pens in Federal waters located 
approximately 4 nautical miles (7.4 kilometers) off the coast of San 
Diego, California. To identify a site for the proposed action, POA 
sought spatial analysis expertise from the NOAA National Ocean Service 
(NOS) to identify potential offshore locations that would be 
technically and commercially feasible while minimizing environmental 
effects. The technical and commercial parameters for the proposed 
project were established by the applicant to identify potential sites. 
Those parameters included, but were not limited to the following:
     Within 35 nautical miles (65 kilometers) of suitable 
port(s);
     Minimum and Maximum Depth to Seafloor: >= 100 feet (30 
meters) and < 495 feet (150 meters);
     Suitability for Species: California yellowtail (Seriola 
dorsalis)--(other native or naturalized species may also be cultivated 
that have the same requirements for temperature, space, and other fixed 
parameters); and
     Gear Type: Submersible net pen.
    The NOS siting analysis included review of other engineering, 
development, and environmental constraints, including but not limited 
to presence of submarine cables, oil and gas infrastructure or leases, 
squid and trawl fisheries, wastewater treatment discharge structures, 
shipping lanes and high vessel traffic areas, marine protected areas, 
deep sea corals and hard bottom habitat, and marine mammal migration 
routes. The siting analysis included a review by the U.S. Department of 
Defense (DoD) to ensure that potential sites avoided areas of DoD 
operations in Federal waters, which are extensive offshore of southern 
California.
    POA and NOS identified a site that best meets the technical, 
commercial, and environmental parameters within an area located 
approximately 4 nautical miles (7.4 kilometers) offshore of San Diego, 
California. Following initial site identification, POA coordinated with 
local U.S. Navy commands and organizational units and received informal 
approval from the DoD.
    NOAA has directives to preserve ocean sustainability and facilitate 
domestic aquaculture in the U.S. consistent with the National 
Aquaculture Act of 1980, the NOAA Marine Aquaculture Policy (2011), and 
Presidential Executive Order 13921--``Promoting American Seafood 
Competitiveness and Economic Growth'' (May 7, 2020) through, among 
other things, providing technical expertise and supporting 
environmental review and permitting of commercial scale aquaculture 
proposals. NOAA may also be called upon to engage in consultations, 
permitting, and authorization for such projects under the Endangered 
Species Act, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation 
Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Purpose and Need

    The proposed Federal action includes decisions on two permits under 
the respective authorities of the EPA and the USACE as required to 
site, install, and operate the proposed aquaculture facility. The EPA's 
proposed Federal action is the issuance, if appropriate, of a National 
Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which would 
authorize effluent discharge from an aquatic animal production facility 
because such discharges are considered a point source discharge into 
waters of the U.S. The USACE's proposed Federal action is the issuance, 
if appropriate, of a permit pursuant to Section 10 of the RHA that 
authorizes structures and work in navigable waters of the U.S.

Agency Purpose and Need

    The EPA has authority to issue NPDES permits pursuant to Section 
402 of the CWA and regulations at 40 CFR part 125, subpart M. Under 
Section 402, all point sources that discharge directly into U.S. waters 
are required to obtain an NPDES permit from the EPA. Each NPDES permit 
specifies effluent limitations for particular pollutants, as well as 
monitoring and reporting requirements for the proposed discharge. POA 
intends to apply for a NPDES permit from the EPA. Because the POA 
facility is proposed in Federal waters, it requires a NPDES permit to 
operate and the EPA will evaluate POA's permit application pursuant to 
the CWA and implementing regulations. The NPDES permit, if issued, 
would authorize POA to discharge pollutants into waters of the U.S. The 
EPA has a statutory responsibility to respond to applicant requests for 
NPDES permits. EPA is required to review applications and, if 
appropriate, issue NPDES permits under the CWA.
    The USACE has authority to issue permits pursuant to Section 10 of 
the RHA and regulations at 33 CFR parts 320-332. Prior authorization (a 
permit) is required for installation of structures and work in, over, 
or under navigable waters of the U.S. This will require evaluation of 
impacts to navigation and public interests. The USACE's proposed 
Federal action is a direct outcome of POA's permit application to 
establish and operate a commercial-scale finfish facility in marine 
waters off the southern California coast; thus, the purpose of USACE's 
action is to evaluate POA's application pursuant to the RHA. The USACE 
has a statutory responsibility to respond to applicant requests for 
Section 10 permits. USACE is required to review applications and, if 
appropriate, issue permits under Section 10 of the RHA.

Applicant Purpose and Need

    The applicant's stated purpose of the proposed project is to 
construct and operate a new commercial-scale, offshore finfish 
aquaculture facility in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the 
southern California coast.
    The United Nations estimates that the world population will reach 
approximately 9.7 billion people by the year 2050, and approximately 
11.0 billion people by the year 2100. With this approximate 26 to 43 
percent growth in population, the demand for food (and protein) will 
also grow proportionally. Terrestrial meat production cannot support 
this demand without significant land use and environmental 
consequences.
    The U.S. has the world's largest EEZ including a wide range of 
habitats and farmable species with the resultant potential to support 
large stocks of wild fish species and extensive offshore aquaculture 
operations to provide

[[Page 55669]]

additional protein sources for the U.S. and exports. However, many wild 
fisheries within the EEZ are at, or near, maximum sustainable yield and 
the U.S. is one of the world's largest importers of fish and fishery 
products. By weight, greater than 85 percent of the seafood Americans 
eat comes from abroad, over half of it from aquaculture. The U.S. is 
ranked 17th in the world for aquaculture production as of 2018, 
contributing to an annual $16.8 billion seafood industry trade deficit.
    By operating in U.S. waters, POA would be under U.S. regulatory 
oversight. Data generated and collected from the aquaculture facility 
could provide multiple benefits to government agencies, universities, 
fisheries managers, and the scientific community. Such a commercial-
scale, offshore aquaculture facility would provide an opportunity for 
study, new technology development, and transferable knowledge and would 
be the first of its kind in California waters.

Preliminary Reasonable Range of Alternatives for Consideration

    NOAA has identified a proposed action and preliminary alternatives 
for potential consideration in the draft EIS. Both a no-action and 
several preliminary action alternatives are presented for consideration 
for public review and comment. NOAA is also soliciting additional 
alternatives for consideration.

No-Action Alternative

    Under the no-action alternative, the EPA and USACE would not issue 
permits and the applicant would not be authorized to construct or 
operate a finfish aquaculture facility offshore of southern California; 
and the project's direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts would not 
occur. Under the no-action alternative, the proposed project would not 
take place, however the resulting environmental effects of no action 
would be compared with the effects of allowing the proposed project or 
an alternate project to go forward.

Reasonable Range of Action Alternatives

    Action alternatives describe potential alternative approaches to 
achieve the defined purpose and need of the proposed action. NOAA is 
considering the following action alternatives at this time: The San 
Diego Site Alternative (applicant's proposed action), Long Beach Site 
Alternative, and Half-Scale Alternative at either location.
San Diego Site Alternative
    POA proposes to construct and operate a new commercial-scale, 
offshore source of finfish in the U.S. EEZ approximately 4 nautical 
miles (7.4 kilometers) off the coast of San Diego. An area of 
approximately 1,000 acres (4 square kilometers) (exact area to be 
determined based on engineering design) is sited as suitable for 
potential use; of this, approximately 717 acres (2.9 square kilometers) 
would be occupied by the project, including a total of 28 submersible 
pens, anchors and mooring lines, and surface marker buoys. The total 
area may change relative to the exact location of the pen grids, the 
relative depth of the pens, and the final engineering requirements that 
would delineate the location, number, and depth of mooring lines. 
Initial production is projected to yield 2.2 million pounds (1,000 
metric tons) annually growing up to 11 million pounds (5,000 metric 
tons) after environmental monitoring confirms that each successive 
scale of expansion has not resulted in any substantial environmental or 
space-use impacts. California yellowtail (Seriola dorsalis) would be 
the initial cultivated species, as it is native to California waters. 
Other local species such as white seabass (Atractoscion nobilis), may 
be grown in addition to or in lieu of California yellowtail when the 
project has become operational under Federal and state permit 
requirements.
    The project would utilize established and tested pen and mooring 
technologies that are able to withstand storm and rough sea conditions. 
The POA pen culture system would be constructed of high density poly-
ethylene pipe with a suspended copper-alloy mesh to control for fouling 
organisms and inhibit parasitic infestations. The pens would have an 
approximately 98.4-foot (30-meter) diameter and 46-foot (14-meter) 
depth. The mooring system would be designed with 2 pen grids, each 
containing 2 rows of 7 pens (28 pens total) with grid cell dimensions 
of 328 feet by 328 feet (100 meters by 100 meters). The mooring system 
would be made of nylon ropes, galvanized steel shackles, and buoys 
(surface and subsurface) located at nodes in the grid. Steel chains and 
anchors or concrete blocks would secure the system to the ocean floor.
    Once all applicable permits are obtained, construction of the 
aquaculture facilities will take approximately 1 year. Stocking of the 
cages would then occur sometime within the following year with the 
first commercial harvest occurring 18 to 24 months later. POA would 
scale up production after initial yields are reached and subject to 
environmental monitoring. The anticipated maximum production up to 11 
million pounds (5,000 metric tons) per year would occur approximately 3 
to 6 years after the project is constructed.
    Once operational, the aquaculture facility would follow Best 
Aquaculture Practices set forth by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council 
(in collaboration with the World Wildlife Foundation) and the Global 
Aquaculture Alliance. The applicant has proposed to only work with feed 
suppliers and processing facilities that are Best Aquaculture Practices 
certified.
    Dedicated vessels would haul feed, personnel, and harvested fish to 
and from the aquaculture facility daily from the Port of San Diego. The 
vessels would include an offshore feeding system, harvest vessel, 
multiuse vessel, and a personnel transport vessel. A dedicated harvest 
vessel would visit the aquaculture facility site at least three times 
per week at full production to remove fish from the net pens. Actual 
frequency of use would depend on time of year and harvesting schedule 
as determined by fish growth and aquaculture facility need.
    Landside facilities would include existing facilities and 
infrastructure at the Port of San Diego. Pier or wharf access would be 
needed for construction staging and preparation and loading and 
unloading of feed and harvested fish; occasional access would also be 
needed to transport juvenile fish to the aquaculture facility, and to 
accommodate vessel docking or mooring capacity for multiple vessels of 
various lengths.
Long Beach Site Alternative
    This action alternative would construct and operate the POA 
aquaculture grid arrays offshore at approximately 4 nautical miles (7.4 
kilometers) southwest of Sunset Beach in Long Beach. The Long Beach 
site has not been analyzed by the DoD to receive informal clearance. 
However, the analysis conducted by NOS included review of DoD spatial 
data regarding operating areas, ocean disposal areas, unexploded 
ordnances, danger zones, and restricted areas and adequate surface and 
seafloor space was identified that avoided these areas. Onshore 
facilities needed for this alternative would be similar to those 
identified for the proposed action, but would be expected to be located 
within existing developed areas at the Port of Long Beach or the Port 
of Los Angeles. Aside from the different site location,

[[Page 55670]]

this alternative would be of similar size at full build-out, would use 
the same net pen design, anchoring design, phased development, and 
operational plans as the San Diego Site Alternative.
Half-Scale Alternative
    This action alternative would consider an initial projected 
production of 2.2 million pounds (1,000 metric tons) and a final 
production of 5.5 million pounds (2,500 metric tons) from 3 to 6 years 
after the project is constructed and operated. This production level 
and project spatial extent would be approximately half that described 
in the San Diego Site Alternative. The anchoring and mooring system for 
a single submerged grid would use the same engineering design as the 
full-scale San Diego Site Alternative. Only 1 pen grid containing 2 
rows of 7 pens (14 pens total) would be installed. The half-scale 
alternative would be analyzed for both the San Diego and Long Beach 
Alternative sites.
Action Alternatives Summary
    Currently, two location alternatives and a half-scale alternative 
are being considered for detailed analysis in the EIS. The two location 
alternatives in southern California--San Diego and Long Beach--are 
considered for the off-shore finfish aquaculture site and the landside 
facilities that would be used to receive, process, and distribute the 
harvested fish.

    Dated: September 2, 2020.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-19921 Filed 9-8-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P